Sheriff reports on Search and Rescue’s busy year

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Search and Rescue team is having a busy year, with 26 rescues since Jan. 1, compared to 44 in all of 2014, Sheriff Cory Pulsipher told the Washington County Commission at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Rescues so far this year have happened all across the county, including Snow Canyon, Kolob Mountain, Warner Valley, Sand Mountain Off Highway Vehicle area, and more.

Search and rescue volunteers rescue stranded campers in Oak Grove, Washington County, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photos courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News
Search and rescue volunteers rescue stranded campers in Oak Grove, Washington County, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photos courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News

A handful of the rescues this year were people stuck or stranded in snow. One especially lucky rescue happened by accident, as SAR teams were practicing on snowpacked roads near Kolob Reservoir, and came across a woman who had been stranded for a day and a half after heavy snow fell on Southern Utah.

Sheriff Cory Pulsipher is not quite sure what accounts for the increase, but said it has happened before.

“You go back to ’06, ’07 ’08, that time period, we averaged 3.1 calls per week for the entire year,” Pulsipher said. “Things just went crazy; and then all of a sudden things just slowed down.”

Pulsipher attributes that increase to improved technology, such as cell phones and GPS devices, which helped hikers avoid getting lost. The reason for this year’s high rate of rescues could be as simple as a warm early spring, he said.

Life Flight was called in to assist in the rescue of an injured hiker in the Red Cliffs area, March 3, 2015 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News
Life Flight was called in to assist in the rescue of an injured hiker in the Red Cliffs area, March 3, 2015 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News

One particularly tough rescue involved a fall at the Red Cliffs Recreation Area March 3 when a young man fell 40 feet.

Emergency responders had a difficult time trying to remove him from the area because of the extremely rough terrain. That rescue alone totaled 52 team hours, Pulsipher said.

Luckily, a Life Flight helicopter was able to eventually find a place to land in the area, SAR Commander Mike Thomas said. Otherwise, it would have taken the team 4-6 hours to get the man out using ropes.

“We would have had to do a 200-foot raise to get him up to the ridgeline, and then another 200-foot lower to get him back down,” Thomas said.

Pulsipher doesn’t know how his office would manage without all of the hours the volunteer Search and Rescue personnel put in. Among the Washington County Search and Rescue teams are specially trained units such as high-angle, swiftwater and dive rescue teams, which would be extremely expensive for the county to train and maintain.

In other business, Commissioner Victor Iverson was appointed to the Five County Human Services Council Advisory Board and the Southwest Behavioral Health Center Authority Board.

The County Commission also approved a priority list of highway corridor preservation projects within Washington County as established by the Washington County Council of Governments.

The Council of Governments is comprised of area mayors and county officials, and oversees the Corridor Preservation Funds. The funds are used to purchase rights of way for transportation projects, including roadways, bike paths, and any form of planned public transportation.

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Email: japplegate@stgnews.com
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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